NOW ON VOD! Sometimes a film is good solely based on the story idea. Yûgo Sakamoto’s thriller, Baby Assassins, is one of those films. The writer/director takes two concepts and mashes them together, as the film is about teenage hitwomen. Sure, as assassins by trade, there are killings, Yakuza, martial arts, gunfights, and low-budget, high-volume blood. But, as teens, well, they’re teenagers.
The basic story is that extroverted Chisato (Akari Takaishi) and introverted Mahilo (Saori Izawa) are about to graduate from high school. They live together as roommates, and their handler keeps insisting that the girls find jobs as a cover for the steady flow of assassin booty flowing into their bank accounts. He also suggests that Chisato and Mahilo begin taking more control over their personal lives, such as running their finances and consider living separately.
On their most recent assignment, the girls assassinate a prominent member of the Yakuza, which garners the attention of one of the leaders. Of course, this leads to an ever-escalating amount of intense action. All the while, our two protagonists must grapple with growing up.
Baby Assassins is just pure fun. The downside is it’s a low-budget action movie. Some of the gore is enhanced with CG, and there’s lots of fake blood. The camera work is decent, but its quality is indicative of the budget. In other words, a more experienced crew would have elevated the action exponentially. As Chisato, Akari Takaishi does most of the martial arts fighting and is a star in the making.
“…their handler insists that the girls find jobs as a cover for the steady flow of assassin booty flowing into their bank accounts.”
The fact that the lead characters are played as teenage girls sets the production apart, but only so much. Mahilo is sweet, amiable, and deadly when crossed. Chisato is much more laid back and has low-level social anxiety. She’s happy to be in the background and just stand there in the shadows. Chisato and Mahilo are best friends, while at the same time, their differences can be annoying two one another. Yes, it feels like babysitting a pair of Gen Z teens at times.
The best setpiece of Baby Assassins happens in a hostess club. Mahilo gets a job as a hostess from “another planet.” Not wanting to be left behind, Chisato insists that Mahilo get her a job there out of sheer social comfort. But, unfortunately, things go south, as Chisato’s introverted tendencies translate into indignance, especially toward her Yakuza clientele.
The story’s structure shifts between the girls on the job and goofing off at their apartment. What works is the relationship between Mahilo and Chisato. The characters are so well defined and contrasts one another perfectly. The depiction of their friendship is just as good as the fight scenes. Action-wise, it really does take a while to warm up, but getting to the final battle is worth the wait.
I don’t want to overhype Baby Assassins too much. Overall the production flies solidly in that good airspace, and as teen assassins, Sakamoto manages to keep his characters grounded while giving them an accent of cartoony fun. All around, the inexperience of the cast and crew shows, but a great trajectory upward is on the horizon.
Baby Assassins screened at the 2021 Fantastic Fest.
"…Takaishi does most of the martial arts fighting and is a star in the making."